Sushi chefs. Cigar bars. Just another day at NASCAR.
Squealing wheels, smoking pipes, and engines revving deep, the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing — better known as NASCAR — has grown into the No. 1 spectator sport in America, whipping millions of fans into exhaust-fumed frenzies at its dozens of events around the country each year.
Naturally, every raceway has high-end seating options. But luxury boxes are a dime a dozen these days. How about a luxury condominium that just happens to overlook the oval?
Take this past weekend’s Nextel All-Star Challenge race: For this 80-lap, 120-mile event at Lowe’s Motor Speedway in Concord, N.C., the VIPs skipped the grandstand in favor of seating high overhead at the luxury First Turn Condominiums, where a 1,200-square-foot flat rents out for the weekend rate of $23,000.
“It’s the best seat in the house, hands down,” said Joseph McGovern, a 63-year-old retiree who’s rented his First Turn suite to corporate groups as well as die-hard NASCAR aficionados. “It’s like watching the race from your living room.”
Indeed, McGovern’s First Turn suite features 8-foot by 25-foot windows that open unto the track, providing a vantage that’s 80 feet in the air and within spitting distance of the action. Most units at First Turn accommodate 20 or more fans, with a step-down seating arrangement in front of the big windows, a kitchen, two adjacent bedrooms and two baths. Private parties are fully catered.
“I’ve been a NASCAR fan since age 18,” McGovern said, “and this is as good as it can get.”
For some insight and ideas on other luxury NASCAR options, we consulted Penny Pittman, the president of Inside Track Inc., a Queen Creek, Ariz., travel agency that specializes in the niche of NASCAR vacations.
Pittman, who has scheduled extravagant NASCAR-based getaways for over a decade, said the options are virtually limitless for travelers. “If you want a helicopter to fly you to the track, we can do that,” she said. “If you want a pre-race pit tour, or if you want to take race-car driving lessons before an event, we can arrange that, too.”
One trip Pittman is particularly fond of includes weekend accommodations at the Bellagio Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, with limousine and helicopter transport to and from the NASCAR venue.
For a race like the UAW-DaimlerChrysler 400, which takes place next March at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Inside Track Inc. can set up a trip where travelers will be whisked by wheel and then whirring blades to the track and its exclusive clubhouse area. Once on site, garage and pit tours, a catered lunch and drinks precede an ushering to the speedway’s grandstand and its best seats near the start line.
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